The many fingerings for F♮on the oboe

Oboe: what F♮ fingering to use and when

Summary of what F to use and when:

  1. For passages moving from/to a not not requiring the ring finger of the right hand –use the Right hand (taco key) F. This should be the default F to use to build efficient technique.
  2. For passages moving from/ to a note that does require the ring finger of the right hand; use the forked F….unless…
  3. The passage requires using the ring finger note,  followed by an F, followed by and E-natural, or the same in reverse order. In which case you should use the Left hand F if available.

Have you noticed that flute, clarinet players, and even some trumpet players seem to quickly develop flashier technical skills than the poor oboe players in the middle school band. Technique on the oboe is a little counterintuitive but if you really understand the way that F fingerings work on the oboe you can go a long way to developing strong and fast hands for you and your students.

While concert F and  Bb are great keys for the trumpet, trombone, sax and clarinet to learn in. These keys have the oboe players struggling to keep alternate fingerings straight right from the beginning. I struggled with this for years as a kid but you and your students don’t have to!

 

There are 2 low f fingerings that every oboe player needs to know right from the beginning and a third that should be understood as soon as they have an oboe that makes it available. These are the Forked F, the right hand F (lovingly nicknamed the taco key F), and the left hand F, which is played by the left hand pinky.

Taco F fingering Nathan Hughs

The right hand F (Taco Key F) ​

This F is nicknamed the taco key f because it is so delicious. Just kidding! It is so named because it uses the skinny little key between the D and E keys that resembles a hard shell taco. This should be the primary f students learn. This F the go to F in C major and any time you need to go between F-natural and E-natural. As in this excerpt of the third progressive melody by Barret, which can also be found in the Gekeler oboe method.

Forked F

The Forked F is named for the fingering of the right hand, which does not use the middle finger. This F fingering is descended from the baroque oboe and inherits the difficulty of that note. This F is necessary to smoothly move between F and any note that requires use of the ring finger of the right hand.

For example moving to or from F -natural and  E-flat anything lower. This requirement is also true for the upper octave, just add the back octave key. The forked f makes life easy in these examples of the drunken sailor or Mendelssohn symphony no. 3. And the effect is even more obvious when slurring. 

 

Mendelssohn Third Symphony oboe
Oboe Forked F fingering

If you are playing this note on a beginner oboe or older intermediate oboe without a resonance key, you may have tried this great advice and been disappointed in the flatness of the pitch.

On most professional oboes a resonance key has been installed above the right hand pinky keys that is articulated  to open only when forked F is used. This mechanic solution raises the pitch of the forked f and if the oboe is in good adjustment works to make the forked f indistinguishable from the standard right hand F.  

Unfortunately many beginner oboes are lacking the resonance key. In order for the forked f to sound in tune the e flat key must be added to this forked f fingering. This complicates the technique a bit, but is especially needed for the pitch of the lower octave forked f when the resonance key is not present. However using the Eb key when the resonance key is present, essentally doubles the resonance key. This will make the Forked-F sound fuzzy and unusable. (Picture with caption  Notice the Eb key is on the same level as the resonance key)

 

Many teachers who are accustomed to oboes without a resonance key or who shy away from adjusting an oboe themselves(which can be daunting indeed!) may encourage their students to avoid the forked f at all costs, but this is simply impractical when playing music at faster tempos and may result in strange habits for the student down the road.

Left hand F

Once the student has an oboe with a left hand f key lever installed they should be acquainted with the final of the lower octave F fingerings.

This fingering allows the player to move from an Eb or lower while avoiding the awkward replacement of the right hand’s middle finger when moving from forked f to E.  This F is often abused as a replacement for forked f but it should be used only when appropriate. Efficiency is often lost using the left f when forked F would have been perfectly useful.

For example, try playing the drunken sailor in D-Dorian or Mendelssohn scotch symphony pictured to the right  with the left F. They are suddenly much more of a challenge.

However the left f is amazingly efficient when playing a C-major scale in thirds or Lightly Row.

Left hand F oboe nancy king
C major scale in thirds oboe
Third Octave F fingering oboe

Third Octave F

This is the highest F the the standard oboe literature requires of the player. The standard band high school band and orchestra repertoire seldom calls for it but it is in almost every set of All-State etudes at least once. This F may be a challenge to play on oboes without a third octave key, but with a good reed it should pop out without too much effort. ()

As with most of the third octave notes the voicing/ shape of the upper throat will determine if this note speaks. You will have a much easier time with and “EEE” voel shape in the throat wilke keeping a firm “ooo” vowel shape with the lips. Fast upward directed air is key. Additionally, adding the half hole for most oboes will make this note pop out more easily, but on others not using the halfhole will sound best. Experiment to find out what works best on your instrument. 

One last note about the Third Octave F is that it can be played on either the left or right side. Mixing these fingerings as in using the left and right pinky fingers together should be avoided.  The separate fingerings allow access from notes that require either the left or right pinky finger. For example; when approaching from left hand E-flat use the right hand high F fingering. 

Considerations for pitch tendencies of F

The lower two octave F tend to be flat compared to the rest of the oboe on Loree, Fox, and Laubin  instruments.The third octave f however tends to be very sharp. Encourage your students to avoid clamping down on the reed with their mouth and to instead voice the note with the throat. The high register speaks more easily by when taking more reed, but this may disable any control of pitch. Make sure you are using voicing to get the air right for the highest octave instead of choking down the reed.

You may find beginner and intermediate players have trouble getting the low forked f to sound as clear, present, and up to pitch as the other fingerings, but this can be solved:

  1. Make sure the reed is very responsive in the low register. Reeds with thick tips will have a hard time with clarity in general but especially on the forked F.

  2.  Make sure the resonance key is opening enough and not binding with the posts. This can usually be solved with a screwdriver and some key oil, but if it is really sluggish a seasoned repair person can sand a little off the post to give the key more room to move. This maybe especially useful in hot climates and old instruments.

Try all the different F fingerings in the Famous Passage Below!!

Conclusion

Finding the right F fingering is something oboists develop a knack for over time, but can be quite overwhelming for young students. Once you know which F to use to make your technique most efficient in any situation, you just need a fun way to teach it. What are your favorite ways to teach the F fingerings? I’d love to learn! Let me know in the comments below. Oh and can you name this excerpt??

Ibert Oboe Three Pieces

Leave a Reply

Close Menu
×
×

Cart